Entertainment Platforms Should Promote Social Justice Issues

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Diana headshotDiana Guardado is a Junior Media Studies major.

The Oscars on Feb. 22 celebrated the work of the film industry during the past year, with nominees including “Birdman,” which won best picture, and other films such as “Whiplash,” “Boyhood,” “American Sniper,” and “Selma.” But rather than only talking about film, the Oscars also brought to television some important issues in our country. From Patricia Arquette advocating for wage equality to Alejandro González Iñárritu pushing for just treatment of immigrants, the Oscars became a platform to push change.

One of the performances that not only talked about change but also brought the audience to tears was Common and John Legend’s “Glory” performance. During this powerful moment, audiences saw a recreation of the bridge that Martin Luther King Jr. and protesters walked across urging for their civil rights in 1965. “Glory” won for best original song and John Legend stepped up to the microphone with this message, “We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now.” This message resonated throughout the rest of the show with various other issues coming to light during acceptance speeches, such as Graham Moore’s win for best adapted screenplay, “Imitation Game.” He spoke about his attempted suicide at 16 years old and left the audience with one message: “Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it’s your turn and you are standing on the stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

Recently, people have been embracing the power of media, throughout the world. The media triggered the Arab Spring, kept everyone informed during the situation in Ferguson, and raised awareness about the missing girls in Nigeria. It seems as if we are finally entering a positive period of change through media. We can begin these tough discussions with the help of entertainment shows, which bring to the public eye issues that are usually ignored.

If more celebrities started discussing, promoting, and encouraging change, then more people will become aware of the prejudices they have or are surrounded by.  These political messages being brought to the public from popular figures in the media help to bring out issues being ignored. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Lena Dunham, and Kerry Washington are using platforms like Twitter to talk about problems such as the killing of 18 year old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson. Topics covered by celebrities range from the environment and how we can protect it, to promoting gay marriage, and stopping human trafficking. Segregation has ended, but that does not mean racism is dead. If using a platform like the Oscars will help move these discussions to the front, then I would be glad to watch such programs.

But does it really have an effect? Only time will tell, but what’s interesting is that a day after Patricia Arquette’s message of wage equality, Hillary Clinton praised the Oscar winner’s words at a Silicon Valley conference. Hopefully these types of steps can help to create a discussion that urges our government and others watching to make a positive change because, as John Legend said when accepting his award, “the struggle for justice is right now.”

Photo credit: Tiffany Rose/ Getty Images 

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